Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 7 years ago

DId you know the vast majority of witches were condemned by secular courts?

After a 20th century unmatched for bloodshed, the world today is in no position to disparage early modern Europe. Witch-hunts have much in common with our own political purges, imagined conspiracies, and rumors of ritualized child abuse. Our capacity to project enormities on the enemy Other is as strong as ever.

The truth about witch-hunting is worth knowing for its own sake. But the issue has added significance for Catholics because it has provided ammunition for rationalists, pagans, and radical feminists to attack the Church. It is helpful to know that the number of victims has been grossly exaggerated, and that the reasons for the persecutions had as much to do with social factors as with religious ones

While Christianity clearly created the framework for the Witch Hunts, no single "Church" was to blame, and many secular governments hunted witches for essentially non-religious reasons.

None of these persecutions could have been carried out without the permission and cooperation of secular governments. In only a few small regions, like the Papal States and various Prince-Bishoprics in Germany, were religious and temporal government leaders one and the same. But in all the rest of Western Europe, secular princes ultimately decided whether or not witches were hunted. Still, religious leaders carry a large share of the blame for the hunts, since secular princes often hunted witches on the advice of the clergy. Princes hunted witches because Church leaders taught them that witches were disturbers of the peace, destructors of property, and killers of animals and people.

Meanwhile, witch-hunters' manuals multiplied, most notably the infamous Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), published in 1486. Its authors, Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kraemer, were experienced Dominican inquisitors who had burned 48 witches in one diocese alone and had obtained a papal bull approving their mission. Reversing the old principle of the Canon Episcopi, Sprenger and Kraemer proclaimed that not believing in the reality of witches was heresy. Witches regularly did physical as well as spiritual harm to others, they wrote, and allegiance to the devil defined witchcraft. Sprenger and Kraemer exhorted secular authorities to fight witches by any means necessary.

The craze took on new strength in the 15th century, and in 1486, Heinrich Kramer, a member of the Dominican Order, published the Malleus Maleficarum (the 'Hammer against the Witches'). Although this book was banned by the Church in 1490, it was nevertheless reprinted in 14 editions by 1520 and became one of the most influential books used by secular witch-hunting courts

. These prosecutions are significant, as they establish that and the prohibition under severest penalties, the sentence of death itself of witchcraft was demonstrably not a product of Christianity, but had long and necessarily been employed in the heathen world and among pagan peoples and among polytheistic societies

Update 2:

Becki - either you have been misfed lied or you are lying, i suggest you educate yourself

Update 4:

Jean - you do not seem intelligent enough to be on here,

Update 5:

The vast majority of witches were condemned by secular courts. Ironically, the worst courts were local courts. Some authors, like Anne Llewellyn Barstow (Witchcraze), blame the death toll on the decline of the "community-based" medieval court, and the rise of the centralized "national" court. Nothing could be further from the truth. "Community-based" courts were often virtual slaughterhouses, killing 90% of all accused witches. National courts condemned only about 30% of the accused.

Update 6:

Barry - that may well be true but most killings were done by secular courts

Update 7:

Becki - also becki your list misses out the league of militant atheists who killed over 30 million

Update 8:

Corey - you have obviously never heard of the league of militant atheists - most wars were secular in origin btw

Update 9:

nameless - my question obv made you feel uncomfortable but nothing i said was incorrect - you do not seem intelligent enough to be on here

11 Answers

  • 7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Pope Innocent's Papal Bull of 1484 does direct Mr. Sprenger and Mr. Kramer to combat witchcraft in northern Germany but the assumption would be that they do it within the bounds set down by the Church.

    According to the sources I found on the internet, Malleus Maleficarum was never authorized or approved by the Catholic Church.

    The book's statements were not consistent with Catholic doctrine and one of the authors, Kramer, was condemned by the Inquisition in 1490, six years after the Papal Bull.

    The writers also attached a forged letter of approbation from the University of Cologne ostensibly signed by four teachers there. The University had not approved the book, and had in fact condemned it for the use of unethical legal procedures.

    With love in Christ.

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    Ah, Lying Liam, swo frightened by atheism.

    Why are you so afraid of atheism/atheists?

    I promise I won't hurt you!

    You are one of the ones who give christianity it's reputation. Well deserved in your case.

    edit: @ sanity: those people could also have been bright. See how they treat the intelligent, like Einstein, Sagan, Hawking, a long list of advanced people, and they protest them all. Would have killed them happily back then, or even now if we allowed it.

    But Liam, I am way smarter than you are, so where does that leave you. Guess we should both stop posting here? You have historically blocked be because of your fear. And get my accounts removed. I would just hate to feel the need to lie every time I wrote. Does truth embarrass you, or what?

  • 7 years ago

    All honest courts are secular in nature, no? They all try to be objective and to the best of their ability assess guilt or innocence. This reminds me that I read yesterday that the great rationalist Thomas Jefferson referred to the hypothesis of "falling rocks" (cometary debris) as an absurd delusion of those who were foolish enough to believe it. What is rational is determined by what is currently felt with certainty to be... No court ever sought to arbitrarily punish people. They saw cause and effect and correlated witches with negative outcomes. That's good science, in my opinion. All that happened here is that the title "witch" was used under religious pretexts for the timeless and irreligious practice of scapegoating.

  • 7 years ago

    Of course, the intolerant christians have always beeen very good at massacring people of different faiths and attempting to smudge them out. They were especially fond of punishing women for simply being a woman (they still enjoy doing this today, but not to the same extremes as, thankfully, logic seems to have started to come to them). The very word "christianity" should be synonymous with violence, murder, and hatred.

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  • Al
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    You love lying, Liam. One MILLION Cathars were declared to be witches by Pope Innocent III - and all murdered. Tip of the iceberg at that.

    And remember, your BIBLE is the reason that Christians declared people to be "witches" and killed them: "Thous shalt not suffer a witch to live" - Ex. 22:18.

  • 7 years ago

    Hello again Lying Liam,

    History does not get changed because it makes 'you' uncomfortable!

    350,000,000 murdered in God/Jesus' name and counting.


    Here! Now! For all to see!

    Still murdering women as witches! Still murdering gays!

    You and your lying hypocritical sinful ilk are a plague upon the earth and are not long for it!

    Good riddance!

    Lie about that for your imaginary Jesus!


  • CAB
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    Theres no question here.

    Your leadoff sentence is a shaky premise at best, saving most readers the time and trouble of actually having to plow through it all.

  • Nice essay.

    Did you know if it wasn't for the bible saying for people to kill witches then nobody would be killing anyone for witchcraft?

  • 7 years ago

    Yes, I am aware of that. But it was religion and it's handmaiden, superstition, that gave them the law in the first place.

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    these are all untruths, not only has the pope himself killed witches, but the church killed loads of witches, non of which were actual witches. including joan of arc.

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